How To Train The Primate In Your Brain To Be More Upbeat And Helpful
Buddhists use a psychological metaphor called the “mind-monkey,” suggesting that our minds are “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” Not exactly a compliment. From my perspective we humans are complicated beings and our brains are quite amazing– but that amazing power can be used for us—or against us.
Most of my clients ask for strategies to help combat the daily stress involved in taking risks in their business, dealing with politics at work and the ups and downs of life. I highly recommend daily affirmations of some type and have been using them myself for years. Daily affirmations get a bad rap often because they are used incorrectly and because they can seem a little “woo-woo.” Here are two tips that can make affirmations both effective and logical.
Affirmations should be aspirational, but not lies. If you are feeling fat, the affirmation should not be “I am skinny.” Your brain will disagree with you and that is an argument that you will never win. Instead, try “I am making healthy choices.” Find phrases that you can believe on some level instead of picking the opposite of what is true right now. The idea is to reach for the version of yourself you aspire to be in the key categories of your life right now.
Don’t try using affirmations in the middle of a bad moment. If you are having horrible day at work, your kids are acting up and your finances are shot—affirming peace and tranquility is NOT going to help. Affirmations are best as a standalone, brief exercise that you do for yourself for 20 seconds a day or as often as you can. You are building a muscle to help you endure stressful moments—not deal with them in the moment.
Affirmations are not a magic lasso that goes out to fill your “order” or a Santa wish list. The value of affirmations comes from exposing your brain to your goals and aspirations on a level that helps your subconscious mind look for proof of what you are affirming—which makes it more likely to exist. Plus, affirming a somewhat-improved version of something you are struggling with can help you access a more resourceful part of your brain—which again makes it more likely that you will improve in that area.
What’s your favorite affirmation right now? Please share below – we can all use a little positivity!